It IS disheartening and a very definite disservice for the opposition to adopt scaremongering tactics in dealing with Zambia’s current economic challenges.
Instead of contributing to finding solutions, opposition leaders are content describing the problem and arriving at conclusion that Government is responsible for the woes. They further criticize and oppose remedial measures Government implements offering instead a pie in the sky, meaningless solutions.
Zambia needs tough decisions which require leaders with backbone, not those who look for soft but meaningless options.
It is for this reason that we have chosen to re-publish a statement by the International Monetary Fund Mission that visited Zambia at the invitation of the Government to discuss the economy and find modalities of addressing the challenges.
The mission, first and foremost, acknowledged that the Zambian economy was under tremendous pressure on account of a number of exogenous factors including low copper prices and poor rainfall which had affected electricity generation. The cumulative effect of these factors had impacted negatively on the economy, dampening both growth and economic activity.
These are circumstances demanding sober and logical analysis.
Playing politics with the economy is totally inadvisable because misplaced comments may generate deleterious consequences.
Consumers, investors and indeed general economic watchers tend to be hyper sensitive to negative comments and will usually respond at the spur of the moment. This has been the case with the consistent comments on fuel and maize meal shortages. The gut reaction has been panic buying which has resulted in shortages.
The economic challenges that Zambia is facing are not new neither are they unique to Zambia. Zambia has suffered similar difficulties in the past and indeed many countries in the sub region and beyond are facing similar problems due to such circumstances as the rout of commodity prices.
All mining countries have been forced to re-align policies, budgets and economic approaches to take account of the serious budget slippages created by reduced commodity earnings. The worst affected are oil producing countries who have seen incomes reduced from over $100 per barrel of oil to almost $28 per barrel.
Among the African countries most affected are Angola, Nigeria and a recent entrant Ghana. On the other hand South Africa, Zambia and Congo DR are in the vice and grip of mining downturn.
The Bible says: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
That Zambia is facing formidable economic challenges is not a matter of debate. It is a reality that must be faced with seriousness and decorum to engender public confidence instead of disparaging the various measures that have been recommended including cost recovery measures. The Government cannot continue to subsidize consumption because the resource envelop has shrunk.
We must learn from the economic slowdown that our major trading partner, China, is facing. That great country has faced the entire gamut of consequences including massive retrenchments, factory closures and a revaluation of the currency as a result of the prevailing global conditions.
Zambia is not an island. The best opposition can do is not to promise an unrealistic policy initiative but articulate a viable alternative that takes account of the immutable circumstances.